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USOC Game of the Round: Dayton Invades Indy in Round Three

The Dayton Dutch Lions were saved by the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup two years ago. They would welcome the help again.

The Indy Eleven could use a boost too.

The USL PRO’s Lions face off against Indy, which is making its NASL and tournament debut, on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup’s third round. The game, the featured “Match of the Round,” will be streamed on

Both teams are struggling this year. Indy has yet to win a game, although it snapped a four-game losing streak on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against the NASL champion New York Cosmos.

The Lions have won only two of nine this year, not including their 2-0 win over Schwabben AC in the second round of the Open Cup. They are winless in five USL PRO games, including Sunday’s 2-1 loss at home against Sacramento.

It is somewhat reminiscent of 2012 for Dayton, when the team finished ninth in the USL PRO standings with a 4-10-10 record. However, that year, the Dutch Lions advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the Open Cup, upsetting the Columbus Crew in the third round and reaching the final eight before falling to Sporting Kansas City. 

“We had a bad season in our regular competition,” said club business manager Koen Driessen. “But we did so well in the Open Cup. We had a lot of media coverage, the game against the Crew worked out pretty well for us.

“People are still talking about it. It’s a huge thing here.”

Several players remain from the 2012 team, including midfielder Joel DeLass, goalkeeper Matt Williams and defender Shane Smith.

Dayton is accustomed to playing before crowds of 1,500 on a regular basis, so the prospect of playing before maybe 10,000 at Indianapolis, or possibly 17,000 at an MLS stadium, can provide plenty of impetus, according to Dayton coach Sid van Druenen.

“Playing before 17,000, we still use it for promotional material,” Van Druenen said. “Having had success beating the Crew at Crew Stadium, it makes them hungry. We proved we can do it in the past.

“Knowing who you play after, if you win, that you play an MLS team, but to play an MLS team you have to beat an NASL team. Knowing what’s coming after, is motivation.”

The Crew is next for the winner of the Indy-Dayton clash, which can have even more meaning for Dayton. It signed a player developmental agreement with Columbus earlier this year and has several Crew players on loan, including Ross Friedman, Kevan George and Matt Walker.

For Indy, it also has personnel well-acquainted with the Open Cup, starting with head coach Juergen Sommer, who reached the final of the 1998 tournament with Columbus before losing to Chicago in extra time. But, its roster also is dotted with former MLS players such as Kleberson, Jaime Frias and Brad Ring.

Sommer is a former goalkeeper who also played with Luton Town in England and saw momentum build with that club to the 1994 semifinals of the English FA Cup. He sees the tournament as a chance to spark his club’s season.

“I’m familiar with how it can go from days in England when I was with Luton Town, and how we got to the semifinals against Chelsea,” Sommer said.  “It was a really small club, and we’re getting more fans here than at Luton Town. So getting on a little bit of a run, it can be infectious and carry over.”

And as the newest member of the NASL, it too, relishes a chance to go head-to-head with MLS competition in their reputation grudge match.

“More teams in our league are pushing forward to later rounds (in the Open Cup),” Sommer said. “We want to see how far we go. Mixing it up with the MLS teams lets us know how we stand. It gives our guys great experience.”

- Brian Trusdell